Africa-Asia Partnerships in Health and Healthcare Delivery for Women and Youth


Tuesday, March 19, 2019 (All day) to Wednesday, March 20, 2019 (All day)


The University of Witswatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

This event is invitation only - please message for more information.

Africa-Asia Partnerships in Health and Healthcare Delivery

for Women & Youth Conference

Concept Note

March 19 - 20, 2019

Johannesburg, South Africa



Today’s world has more young people than at any other point in history[1]. Nearly half of the world’s population is under age 25. More than one-third falls between ages 10-19, considered the period of adolescence by the World Health Organization1. Of all countries, low- and middle-income countries have the largest proportion of young people, with 43% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa falling below age 15[2]. Adolescence is a critical transition phase between childhood and adulthood, marked by physical, neurodevelopmental, psychological and social changes. These changes make adolescence a unique period in the life-course, as well as an important time for laying the foundations of good health in adulthood5.

Adolescents face unique challenges related to infectious disease, under-nutrition, violence and injury, mental health issues, and non-communicable disease4. Adolescent girls are especially vulnerable due to gender inequity and lack of access to health services and education[3]. As girls age into young women, sexual and reproductive health challenges rise to the forefront. Among adolescent girls aged 15-19 globally, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death[4].

Given that investments made in adolescent health, education, and well-being have tremendous implications for social and economic development as adolescents age[5], the health and development of this young population is key to the development of Africa. Africa’s demographic trajectory for this century makes these investments even more urgent. Africa currently has a population of 1.2 billion. It is set to double to 2.5 billion in 2050, and is projected to double again to 4.5 billion by 2100[6]. According to projections by the UN Population Division, one out of every three individuals on earth will be African by 2100. Africa will have what is termed a “demographic dividend,” with more working adults than dependent elderly or children. The Economist (January 2019) recently noted that 40% of Africa’s population are urban dwellers, and between 2018 and 2035, 21 of the world’s 30 fastest growing cities will be in Africa.

Thus, tailored policies, programs, and strategies are required to reach women and youth in an urbanizing African continent with a fast-growing, youthful population. These adolescent and women-specific initiatives must include a diverse group of stakeholders, from local governments and ministries to multilateral agencies and non-governmental organizations, to the public and private sectors, and including the involvement of young people and women themselves. In an increasingly globalized world, international collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and capacity-building provide a strong impetus in tackling these urgent global health and development goals.

Asia has been an important partner for Africa in the field of health. The framing of Africa-Asia solidarity, captured most importantly in the Bandung Conference of 1955, ushered in an era of South-South relations (then under the context of the Non-Aligned Movement) that have undergone significant historic changes since then. Chinese barefoot doctors in Africa in the 1960s were part of this phenomenon. Today, an economically and scientifically developed China is assisting Africa with establishing its Centers for Disease Control in Addis Ababa. Japan has been a leader in infectious disease research in Africa, setting up from scratch with Japanese funding institutions like the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research in Ghana (est. 1979), the Medical Research Institute in Kenya (est. 1979), and the medical research institute at the University of Zambia (est. 1984). Japanese medical professionals have been working in Africa since the early twentieth century. As early as 1928, Japanese researcher Dr. Hideyo Noguchi died in Ghana while conducting research into yellow fever. The research centers and laboratories Japan has helped set up in Africa have been at the forefront of research and training in infectious diseases. Needless to say, Africa-Asia partnerships in health and healthcare delivery have continued and today are as dynamic as ever.


This two-day conference, titled, ‘Africa-Asia Partnerships in Health and Healthcare Delivery for Women & Youth,’ convenes scholars, policymakers, and practitioners across disciplines from Harvard, Asia, Africa, and the rest of the world to move the agenda forward for safeguarding the health and development of women and youth in Africa. Following the success of the Harvard Africa-Asia Initiative’s first international conference held in Shanghai, China from November 16-17, 2017, this year’s conference will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa on March 19-20, 2019.

The conference will focus on Africa-Asia collaboration in the areas of sexual and reproductive health, the double burden of undernutrition and overnutrition, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases including mental health, vaccine development, strengthening private-public partnerships in health, and building better academic collaborations in research and education, underscored by multisectoral approaches to health and healthcare delivery.

Co-hosted by the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Johannesburg, the conference represents a collaboration among several of Harvard’s most distinguished research entities: the Center for African Studies, the Asia Center, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, the Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies, the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, the Korea Institute, and the East Asian Legal Studies Program.

An active player in global knowledge-exchange and development, Harvard University recently launched the Africa-Asia Initiative, supported by a consortium of Harvard Centers and Institutes. Its China-Harvard-Africa Network (CHAN) connects scholars and policy makers in Africa with those from China. In addition, Harvard and the Africa Academy of Public Health, a Harvard-affiliated organization in Tanzania, have established the Africa Research, Implementation Science and Education Network (ARISE) to foster south-south and south-north partnership.

Since its inaugural meeting at Harvard in June 2016, CHAN scholars have pursued collaborative research, including the Gap Analysis in Global Health study funded by Gates Foundation, to assess the research capacity of global health institutions in China and the governance performance of African governments. CHAN members are also actively seeking grant proposals to support capacity building and training of Chinese and African government officials and scholars, exploring ways research in these areas can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage in Africa and China.

Faculty at Harvard’s Medical School and the T. H. Chan School of Public Health also have established programs and research collaborations in Japan and India. The Takemi Program for International Health at Harvard dates back to 1983. Outstanding faculty who work on health in India and Africa include Professor Vikram Patel, co-founder of Sangath, a non-governmental organization that brings together a global community of mental health innovators.

The strong presence of researchers from China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Africa at the Africa-Asia Partnerships in Health and Healthcare Delivery for Women & Youth conference will promote an important process of stocktaking, as we examine comparative models of healthcare and how robust infrastructures of healthcare delivery develop. India has for the past couple of decades been an important destination for medical tourism from Africa. Indian pharmaceuticals have had an important presence in Africa, and at the height of the HIV-AIDS epidemic the 2001 legal victory of South Africa in a patent suit by the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, representing 39 of the world’s leading drug manufacturers, was to let in an Indian generic version by Cipla of the AIDS drug Combivir, patented by GlaxoSmithKline. Today many Africans head to Asia and not to Europe and North Africa for their medical training. Statistics on the share of worldwide international students between 2001 and 2017 indicate that the most remarkable increase has been in China, which has increased its share of worldwide international students from about 1% in 2001 to 10% in 2017. Select universities in Japan (including Doshisha, Hokkaido, Kyoto, Tokyo, Tokyo International) and South Korea (including Ajou, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Seoul National) offer programs where English is the language of instruction. These developments make this conference on Africa-Asia partnerships in health and healthcare delivery a timely one.


With a focus on international partnership, the conference will facilitate a shared dialogue through a series of keynote addresses and panel discussions featuring distinguished experts and recognized practitioners from Harvard, Africa, Asia, and beyond. Our featured keynote speaker is Dr. Paul Farmer, Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Partners in Health.

In addition to these foremost speakers, panelists and moderators representing institutions from the United States, China, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana, India, South Korea, and Japan, will participate in critical discussion and collective knowledge-sharing.


During this dynamic period in the landscape of global health, the Harvard Africa-Asia Initiative is committed to facilitating the growth of African and Asian partnerships for innovation, capacity-building, and development. This conference is intended to share the findings from the research of colleagues at Harvard and from African and Asian institutions, to exchange ideas and thoughts, and to discuss ways to move the agenda forward for safeguarding the health and development of women and youth in Africa. Our hope is that the speeches, panels, and discussions will contribute to a global repository of knowledge, develop into actionable solutions for policymaking, and inspire new directions in academic research.

[2] World Bank. “Population ages 0-14 (% of total).”

[3] UNAIDS (2014). “The Gap Report 2014: Adolescent Girls and Young Women.”

[4] UNFPA (2013). “Maternal Health in Africa Fact Sheet.”

[5] World Health Organization (2014). “Health for the World’s Adolescents: A second chance in the second decade.”

[6] United Nations (2017). “World Population Prospects.”


ORGANIZERS: Center for African Studies, Asia Center, and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health

CO-HOSTS: University of the Witwatersrand and University of Johannesburg


  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Harvard China Fund
  • Harvard University Asia Center
  • Harvard University Center for African Studies
  • Harvard University East Asian Legal Studies Program
  • Harvard University Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
  • Harvard University Korea Institute
  • Harvard University Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute
  • Harvard University Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies
  • Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Harvard University Yenching Institute
  • Kofi Adjepong-Boateng
  • University of Johannesburg
  • University of the Witwatersrand